The hour’s gotten late and some silence is in order. But silence isn’t just one thing – some silent films are actually rather musical.
Some of Xavier Baert’s short films represent good instances of this, by virtue of the subtle manner in which in them the sequences have been composed, layered, and modulated – his procedures offer an analogue in the realm of the moving image to musique concrète, but much softer, so to speak, than much of the music of that kind, and more melodious. This is particularly the case in the film Empreinte, made in 2004, but the way in which the footage in Révélation, from 2001, has been absorbed from another source, cut up, and reassembled into a new sort of dance, also evinces a strong musical sense.
Baert, a programmer at the Cinémathèque de la danse in Paris and the co-ordinator of its centre for Danses et images actuelles, avers in an interview with Cécile Giraud, published in Objectif Cinéma in 2004, that he was a musician before he became a film-maker.
In the same interview he confides that when making each of these two films he was tempted by the idea of extending the actual silence to the screen: “J’ai même pensé mettre une piste optique vide, pour rendre l’absence encore plus sensible, et que les haut-parleurs n’émettent que du silence,” he said, though the financial means to do so were lacking. Well, it would have been an interesting filmic experiment – testing perhaps how far we’re prepared to go to see and hear nothing, rather than not to see or to hear at all – but I’m rather glad that in the end he chose to place some music on the screen.
These two films are available on his Vimeo channel.